Category Archive: Comic Review

Nov 19 2014

Indestructible Hulk: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (vol 1) – Mark Waid

Not a bad restart (yes, again) of the Hulk direction. The impossible strong, green monster’s alter ego, the brilliant Dr. Banner, decides to work for SHIELD in order to get funding for scientific projects and in return the spy agency literally throws Banner at problems so that he will turn into the Hulk and “fix” them. The trouble with this collections (other than the fact that the Hulk looks stupid with a crew cut) is that the fight scenes–which are imperative to Hulk comics–are rather quick and dull, and the whole point of working for SHIELD never really takes place in this volume, as it is all set-up and the pseudo introduction of tangential characters. 

Nov 17 2014

Cindy and Biscuit – Dan White

The Beast Must Die, part of the duo of the podcast Silence!, wrote these 3 issues of this delightful comic about a little girl with a huge imagination and here pet dog. The premise is simple in that it is about a girl who is disliked by her peers and dismissed by her mom (who, like all adults, is faceless), but goes with her dog on great–and not-so-great adventures, which might be all in her head. Simple plot, simple drawings, simple dialogue, but a great sum; why this comic isn’t taken by a mainstream publisher is beyond me. 

Nov 16 2014

Wolverine and the X-Men (vol 1-3 & 5) – Jason Aaron

I recall hearing great things about Aaron’s comic, but I might have confused it with something else. I assume this because I have read some very gritty and interesting superhero and non-superhero work of his and this is nothing of the sort. The once upon a time homicidal mutant, Wolverine, has now become the headmaster of a school for mutants, and Aaron has numerous old and new characters for teachers and staff, as well as new students and new rivals. There are fun parts to the title and the occasional interesting storyline; however, there are so many characters that Aaron seems unable to keep track of them all and certainly does not have the time necessary to give them all plots and personalities. I read the first 3 volumes, getting so frustrated with the A vs X cross-over BS of number 3 that I skipped volume 4 and picked up again with 5, not that I felt I really missed much. I think that if I was 15 or so I would enjoy this comic, but I’m not a high school student fantasying how I would like my school to be and I want a comic that can deliver more than just day-to-day backstabbing and cuteness. I had taken out another 2 volumes from the library but I realized I was reading them to kill time and hoping they would get good, rather than for pleasure. 

Nov 09 2014

Wolverine: Enemy of the State (vol 1) – Mark Millar

I didn’t care for this comic that has the former homicidal, near indestructible, mutant brain-washed into working for a cabal of evil organizations. It’s just too much. In an attempt to be hard core and dark, Millar just gives a blood bath as somehow Wolverine becomes the worlds most dangerous person. Well I remember a comic series that had Wolverine AND the entire X-Men getting their asses handed to them by Spider-Man and even the Wasp, and how many times did Sabretooth give Wolverine a run for his money, so stop it. 

Nov 07 2014

Wolverine: Old Man Logan – Mark Millar

How does an immortal age? That never made sense to me but I alway let it go that you hit a certain age and stop, so an old Wolverine, the one time homicide mutant turned superhero, started me off wrong, and yet I did greatly enjoy this comic. The idea is 50 years after the super-villains conquered the world and Wolverine, now a farmer pacifist gets recruited to help a blind man drive across country. It is only in comics like this, fantasy one shots, that I like the extreme story-lines and Millar does a good job here, painting a horrible world in only a few strokes. I actually would like to see the story continue and to have the background fleshed out, but I realize that if it did it would probably fall apart. 

Nov 06 2014

Testament – Douglas Rushkoff

I read vol 1-3 (actually I read the first one twice) and it is a fascinating idea mixing Biblical stories with reinterpretations of them in a futuristic setting, all the while explaining a divine war between opposing theological beliefs. The problem, however, does not come from my occasional religious interpretive or depiction disputes (blond hair and blue eyed Hebrew Joseph, who is in chains in an Egyptian prison when it is clearly stated that he runs the joint?), but from the lackluster characterization of the main, mortal, players (and I mean much more so than the mostly naked depictions of an underage girl with an impossible body) who bore me to tears. I want to like this series but find it so hard to do so; I’m much more interested in Rushkoff’s explanations and thoughts on his creative process that the second and third volume have. 

Nov 04 2014

Finder: Talisman – Carla Speed McNeil

Apparently this is a series, although I was unaware of this before reading it (props to Kym for the 411) and I don’t think you need to have read anything else to enjoy the book, even if you might gain more having additional insight–for instance the world is a futuristic one, but I never felt that was truly important. The story is a classical tale of writers block, as a girl, Marcie, longs to reconnect to and recreate the stories she heard as a kid. There is much to like here with little inside jokes and references, many explained in the annotations, but I’m still uncertain how I feel. While I thought the story interesting and never really felt critical about character depth or anything like I normally complain about in these blog posts, I can’t really say that I want to read more. Perhaps knowing the series better IS an important aspect. 

Nov 02 2014

Hulk Wolverine: Six Hours – Bruce Jones

For a comic staring two heavy hitter: the scientist who turns into the giant green monster, the Hulk, and a nearly indestructible mutant, Wolverine, this comic has very little action. to be fair, it has very little of anything. The plot is that a kid gets bit by a snake and needs medical attention but criminals and hostage tacking get in the way, there is a plane crash, and a crazy assassin, blah, blah, very little make any sense and it is rather dull. 

Nov 01 2014

Girl Genius: (Book 10-12) Agatha Heterodyne and the Guardian Muse, Hammerless Bell, & Siege of Mechanicsburg – Phil & Kaja Foglio

To make up for lost time I’m lumping together 3 volumes here to continue with the last volume’s review. This is actually much easier to do than it should be, as all the actions continue to take place in one town, usually within the one fortress. Agatha is the heir to the Heterodynes, the mad scientist family that has been both loved and feared throughout Europe. In order to stake her claim (and hold it) she has to fix Mechanicsburg’s castle/protector and use it to defeat the array of forces that are gathering to destroy her. I still really enjoy this comic: the great art, vibrant colors, crazy and fun world of mad scientists, what’s not to love? However, not only do we have our hero stuck in the same place volume after volume, trying to do the same thing over and over (fix the damn castle), but the authors seem to try to make up for this lack of movement by throwing endless conspiracies and plots within plots to the point of both ludicrousness and making it annoying trying to keep track of it all. I remain a fan, yet feel that something needs to be done to get the true excitement back into the story. 

Oct 31 2014

Afterlife with Archie: Escape From Riverdale – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla

As a means of some background I should state that I grew up with Archie comics; I got them not because I was especially fond of reading them or I went out my way to buy them, but because of circumstances: my aunt married the editor-in-chief of Archie Comics, and when I went off to camp, I would receive care packages of dozens upon dozens of Archie comic books, as would my sister. When we returned from camp we would swap our collections, reread old one, and simply accumulate more and more comics. At one point I think it is fair to say that I had hundreds of Archie comics, greatly worn through numerous re-readings. It didn’t occur to me at the time, but I was extremely grateful to have all those comics to read. But as I grew older I found other things to spend my time reading—not necessarily comics at all—and the repeated story lines and juvenile plots did not hold my attention as they once did. I gave all my comics away to various children in the hopes that they might enjoy them and pleasantly pass a few hours although I cannot confirm if that actually was the case.

Fast forward a few decades: my aunt and the editor-in-chief of Archie divorced, and he later, sadly, passed—the two events are not related. I had given little thought to Archie comics over the years although occasionally at a Comic Expo I would notice a large display for Archie and now and again I would read a piece in a newspaper speaking of an unusual event for Archie comics such as a crossover with the Punisher from Marvel Comics, or the introduction of a homosexual recurring character (which was more shocking to realize that it wasn’t Jughead). I also heard in a podcast about a title of Archie comics called Afterlife with Archie. I was informed that it jumped on the zombie bandwagon and was a horror comic where in Jughead’s dog gets resurrected by Sabrina (as in The Teenage Witch) much like a Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery plot but that this causes an outbreak of zombie-ism. While the reviewers in the podcast praised the title, I have known them to be fans of really bad comics, enjoying the fact that the comics were bad, and it wasn’t until later, when I kept hearing more positive news about the title, that I truly became curious. Was it possible that a juvenile comic dedicated to promoting a 1950s era America that never truly existed was capable of presenting a horror comic with grit and realism? Luckily, I was able to find out.

Low and behold after decades of not receiving Archie comics I got a care package from my cousin (no end of thanks!) and in it was Afterlife with Archie book one, Escape From Riverdale. To cut to the chase let me unequivocally state that this was perhaps the best comic I’ve read this year if not the last couple of years! The coloring is dark and muted and yet vibrant with a great deal of orange and black in tribute to Halloween. The art is realistic, yet not overly detailed and provides excellent pacing and coupling with the narrative. The plot, as stated, falls in line with traditional zombie tales yet does not lack for pathos or suspense or outright horror. There are no punches pulled in this story. Despite this praise, the true genius comes from characterization. What must’ve been the most difficult part of this story was taking characters, well-known and rather two-dimensional, and turning them into people that are refreshingly new, yet true to their original design, as well as making the new characters (or rather newcomers to the comic) accessible. Again, the title does this with seeming ease. Characters either keep their core traits albeit with extremes, such as the heroic Archie becoming more heroic, the trouble-some Reggie becoming darker, etc. or other characters take on new twists such as the ever reliable Jughead becoming a menace, the steadfast Butler Smithers showing just how capable he is—he does run the Lodge household after all—, and speaking of the Lodges we get a great deal of insight into Mr. Lodge’s past and motivations. For additional and perhaps more extreme twists we have hints of two closeted lesbian lovers (or more than hints), as well as a strongly implied incestuous relationship of a brother-sister pair of high society, royal wannabes. In my final analysis, I simply must reiterate that this comic was an absolute pleasure to read, taking me greatly by surprise and impressing me with the ability to commingle the old safe and familiar with the darker familiar, as well as interjecting brand-new ideas. For a comic company not known for (self)promoting being innovative and cutting edge, this book puts those other companies to shame. Archie, Archie Andrews! Well done.

Oct 30 2014

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer – Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen

This collection started with the main title and continues with Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater and Pinocchio Vampire Slayer of Wood and Blood part 1 and 2. The first book is clearly a parody of the story of the wooden boy made by a lonely woodcutter who eventual becomes a real boy (and in this version he fights vampires). It’s dark in art and tone and actually an excellent work of mystery and horror, along with the ridiculousness of it being Pinocchio. I was disappointed in the future works as they introduced many new characters, dividing the focus, and it turned more toward the humorous aspects than the dark ones and I feel it cost the work. I was originally very glad to see that it was more than a one shot, yet perhaps it would have been better to have remained so. Still, the conclusion brings the tale back toward the darker aspects and–as it was going to end–it ended well. 

Oct 28 2014

H. P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror – Joe R. Lansdale

Foolish me, I though, due to the title, that this would be an adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name. No, it is a two generations later re-imagining that captures none of the mystery, thrill, horror, skill, etc of the original. It doesn’t even have any characters unless you count the I’m the leader and I’m the black guy as characters. So disappointing that I skipped the second part of this collection that has what seems to be pictures accompanying the script to Lovecraft’s “The Hound.” I’ll never know as I’ve been burnt and don’t want to continue to be so.

Oct 27 2014

Locke & Key (vol 1-6): Welcome to Lovecraft, Head Games, Crown of Shadows, Keys to the Kingdom, Clockworks, & Alpha & Omega – Joe Hill

[I'm not sure why I didn't just label the title the entire series, because this is the complete 6 volumes that make up this great work. Note: I read these series twice so I've made some changes to my original thoughts and noted them in this review with "[ ]” ]

Admittedly, I picked this up because the name Lovecraft was in the title. Despite the beautiful art of Gabriel Rodriguez [which is only a problem when characters are called "ugly" or considered plain when they are clearly beautiful] and lovely coloring job of glossy pages, I started out disappointed as it appeared there would be a good deal of gratuitous violence and perhaps sexual violence. I am so pleased to be absolutely wrong. The story is a fascinating tale of the Locke family, struck by horrific tragedy, who go to their ancestral home in Lovecraft, MA (ok, I know) in order to escape the past. There, the mother and kids (Bode, Kinsey, and Tyler) try to deal with the senseless violence done to them and slowly unlock the mysteries (and actual locks) of the family estate. In true Lovecraftian fashion, there is never any escape from the past. I’m eager to continue reading. 

With Head Games, I was less thrilled as I felt the magical keys that are, well, key to the series are getting a bit too much so that their outrageousness and/or silliness detracts for the horror story. Still,the excitement is more than enough to keep me hungry for more, although I felt Hill, via his characters, is being too harsh on the Locke matriarch in Crown of Shadows. [On second read I didn't have any problem with the magic but got that same feeling of harshness towards the father character as well.]

Keys to the Kingdom had an interesting formate, providing a montage for the passage of time, the discovery of new keys, and fighting off the constant dangers as an evil force continues to attempt to usurp specific keys for not fully understood reasons. It also spends a great deal of time focusing on the interpersonal relationships of the Locke family with those outside of it, to often creepy effect. Again, I feel the horror aspect of the story is downplayed for the action/adventure portions, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hill does seem to abandon Mrs. Locke in this volume which I don’t understand after she has been so important. [One complaint I have is that there are many, quite interesting, side characters introduced throughout this story, but Hill doesn't always give them the stage time they both need and deserve. There really should have been a vol. 3B that would have given more face time with some of the minor characters, many introduced in vol. 3, and fleshed out some of the stories presented in vol. 4. A win-win!]

Clockworks takes the story towards where I thought it should be moving, in that it becomes rather sinister again and deals mainly with historical accounts, allow the reader and characters to learn the past of so many mysteries. There are some problems with editing here in that one character states a person is going to school X and then that character states she is can’t afford to go to school Y (which, by the way, is cheaper than X) and is going to Z. In another instance a character wonders why her name is printed next to another since she isn’t dating that person, but none of the names are in that order so why would she bring up such a comment? I’d rather Hill slow down as I believe he has great deal of stories he could tell of multiple generations relating to his larger plot; however, the text claims that the story concludes in the next volume, which strikes me as both unfair and unfortunate. A minor criticism I had was the idea that someone can impersonate someone very close to you without attracting suspicion. I see this trope used a lot and I never buy it. Luckily, that had little to do with most of the events recounted here.

Alpha & Omega bring the series to a close. I won’t go into any real detail here as not to spoil anything. I’ll simply comment that am I glad the title has a complete storyline, and even more sad to see it go. I did have a couple of problems with the end, in that how something occurred in the final pages didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me–hopefully I just missed something obvious. Did it end exactly the way I felt it should? No. Was it a great story that I would recommend to just about anyone? Yes! These are the types of stories that make the comic industry a place of magic. Don’t stop!

Oct 25 2014

Monster Haiku: The First 100 Strips – Jason Deeble

This is a cute 4 panel series of strips revolving around traditional horror film monsters. The gimmick (for want of a better term) is that the strips are all done in haiku (the Japanese poetic style of 3 lines and 17 syllables). Honestly, I would not have realized this unless told–which I was, but not before thinking: “this wording is a little clunky,” which shows you both how literary I am, and how unable I am to read a title). On the positive side of things: I think this is a great idea, Jason does a great job with keeping to his rule without it hurting the jokes, he’s a great artists, and I think kids and adults will get a thrill out of his work. Plus he is a super nice guy and very glad I met him at NYCC. To be a little critical I have to say that the book, physically, had some problems. The binding is weak, the printing is too light (the comics all look like they have been left out in the sun or poorly copied), and for your own sake, Jason, put your name on the cover. As to the material, may I suggest that the 4 panels do not seem to give anything that he couldn’t do with 3 (which is also the direction I see most strips going in, so if he wants to focus on marketing….). Additionally, I think Jason needs to spend some time fleshing out his characters. They are totally adorable and have their own personalities, but this collection doesn’t so much as tell you anyone’s names. It may seem like nothing, but mentally thinking, “yeah, that vampire kid character with the awesome hair,” can get annoying. So take a look here to see for yourself.  Note that you too can get an awesome hat like this. He has another one of his Rob the Zombie character–yes, he does add names later, just not in this collection–which I actually liked better and looks great on me (I was made to be an undead parasite), but for the love of fish and all things fish monster-y I had to go with this one. Hopefully, I will see him at another convention sometime and get that hat too (and show that picture off to you, my adoring readers).

Oct 23 2014

Life Sucks – Jessica Abel

Life sucks and so does this comic. I’m extremely disappointed in this as both Abel and publisher, First Second, usually are associated with good work. How did this idea come about?: “If only there was a comic with wimpy vegetarian vampires like Twilight, the minimum wage action of Clerks, and the whinny boy wants girl who is dating a real loser like every 80s movie ever.” The story is about Dave who is a vampire forced to work in his master’s convenience store, who is totally in love with Rosa, who dates good looking nothings. Other than the vampire angle there is nothing new or interesting here. Why does Dave so love Rosa? Could it be for the same superficial reasons she’s guilty of: going for looks? The only parts that could have depth due to conflicts (mainly at the end) are glossed over at best. I much rather read about the repercussions of the actions taken than more of the same boring dialogue of teenagers saying nothing. 

Oct 22 2014

At The Mountains of Madness – adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard

Cej got me this colorful and nicely done comic version of H. P. Lovecraft’s novella about an Arctic expedition that comes across the remains of an ancient race and some terrible truths. I was excited about this comic as Mountains is a deep and thrilling tale (if you can recognize that it is the first of it’s kind and that many horror stories are based on it); however, I must say that it lacks when compared to the original as there are so many details that are lost in this version. Still, the large colorful pictures are quite enjoyable and it is a noble attempt. 

Oct 21 2014

Zombies Calling – Faith Erin Hicks

This short graphic novel is packed with potential. Joss is stressing over exams and student loans to the point driving her roommates, the sex obsessed Robyn and goth Sonnet, insane, until a zombie attack changes her focus. Clever in a meta discussion of “the Rules” to surviving a zombie apocalypse a la the movies, this humorous comic could have been fleshed out to be a meaty treat (sorry I had to write that). Sadly, we are given just enough character information to make them start to seem interesting before it is torn away–like so much flesh from bone. I’ve complained about Hicks’ art always making everyone gorgeous, and yes I complain about that in movies/TV too. I really don’t see why Hicks doesn’t revisit this, double the length, and cash in on the movie rights that are sure to come. 

Oct 20 2014

Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens

This is a collection of one big story and several mini ones about the vampire: Marceline, her band, the Princess of the Candy kingdom: Bubblegum, and their adventures in the land of Ooo. I really enjoy the TV show and am impressed with how much depth of backstory they put into a seemingly innocent kids’ show, and my favorite character is the color eating, hard rocking, vampire queen Marceline. Naturally, I got a kick out of this sweet and funny, and often delightfully drawn, comic about Marceline’s insecurity as she goes on tour. 

Oct 17 2014

Wolverine: Sabretooth Reborn – Jeph Loeb

An extended action scene of the good-guy killer mutant, Wolverine, for the purpose of getting Sabretooth back into the Marvel universe (see title) and having someone named Romulus, who I didn’t know but seems to be another Wolverine/Sabretooth, do some stuff. Not worth it. 

Oct 16 2014

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward – adapted and illustrated by I. N. J. Culbard

Cej got me another Culbard adaption of a Lovecraft novella. This was one of the first Lovecraft stories I ever read and, while not particularly famous, is, in my view, one of the purest of his tales. It deals with a man attempting to unravel what has happened to his friend that has made him act so strange, and, in turn, tells that person’s story about what happened. The layers of the mystery and supernatural horror is so well done and shows his care in writing. All this is why I was wary when approaching this comic. Happily, this graphic work really captures the mysterious elements and the sad truths that unravel throughout the story. Dark colors and focus on individuals makes the tale vivid. A great comic and a strong introduction to the world of Lovecraft.

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